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R&D Project

Bio-based circular solutions


Hazardous waste handling


A Greener Way to Dye Blue Jeans

19. June 2024

Solution provider

DTU Biosustain

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU-Biosustain) at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) aims to develop new knowledge and technologies to support the transformation from conventional, and often unsustainable, industrial production methods to a sustainable bio-based industry. Our research contributes to developing sustainable products within 3 categories – Microbial Food, Sustainable Chemicals, and Natural Products - using microbial production hosts called cell factories.

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The textile industry relies on chemically intensive synthetic indigo resulting in staggering greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Hazardous wastewater is often released directly into waterways, intentionally or by leakage. Rampant use of indigo has led to adverse socio-economic effects, both directly on workers’ health and indirectly on the fertility of land. Despite growing sustainability awareness, this central challenge persists due to a lack of low-impact and competitive alternatives.


EnzyBlue(R) addresses this urgent problem with an enzyme-based alternative. We aim to eliminate harmful chemicals by reaching indigo through the related natural compound indican. Our invention produces indican enzymatically and provides an enzymatic process resulting in the same look as the denim we all know and love. Our techno-economic analyses indicate this approach to be price competitive, and our life-cycle analyses show the potential to significantly reduce environmental impacts.


Our idea of shifting from indigo to indican for blue denim dyeing is motivated by the lower environmental impact that this solution offers. Indican requires no hazardous chemicals, which directly translates to reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, resource depletion, and pollution.

Indican can be produced enzymatically in mild conditions and ambient temperature, offering savings in water and electricity. The wastewater from indican dyeing is much cleaner and easier to handle than wastewater from indigo dyeing. Importantly, textile workers will also no longer be exposed to hazardous chemicals. All these elements clearly make for green innovation.